Vernon Coleman (born 18 May 1946) is an English conspiracy theorist, anti-vaccination activist, AIDS denialist, blogger and novelist who writes on topics related to human health, politics and animal issues. Coleman's medical claims have been widely discredited and described as pseudoscientific. He was formerly a newspaper columnist and general practitioner (GP).
Coleman was born in 1946, the son and only child of an electrical engineer. He was raised in Walsall, Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England, where he attended Queen Mary's Grammar School. As a young child, Coleman was undecided on a career, deciding to become a doctor at 12 on a family friend's advice. Before attending medical school at Birmingham, he volunteered between 1964 and 1965 in Liverpool, getting children to aid and assist the elderly by painting their houses and doing their shopping.
Coleman qualified as a doctor in 1970 and worked as a GP. In 1981, the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) fined him for refusing to write the diagnoses on sick notes, which he considered a breach of patient confidentiality. He is no longer registered or licensed to practise as a GP principal, having relinquished his medical licence in March 2016. An anti-vivisectionist, Coleman has been a witness at the House of Lords on vivisection, calling himself 'Professor'. He has been made an honorary professor by the International Open University based in Sri Lanka.
Writing and media appearances
Coleman is a much-criticised self-published author of a range of books and blogger of conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific claims. After publishing his first book, The Medicine Men, which accused the National Health Service of being controlled by pharmaceutical companies, Coleman left the NHS to focus on his writing.
A 1989 editorial in the British Medical Journal criticised his comments on leprosy following the announcement that Diana, Princess of Wales was to shake hands with a person with leprosy. The incident was covered on Channel 4's Hard News, with Coleman declining to appear without a fee covering travel costs.
In 1994, a High Court judge granted a temporary injunction preventing Coleman from publishing the home address or telephone number of Colin Blakemore, who had been targeted by anti-vivisection activists. He also agreed not to publish anything about Blakemore that might jeopardise his safety, and to give solicitors the names of anyone to whom he might already have given the information.
In 1996, Coleman published the book How to Stop Your Doctor Killing You, which the Advertising Standards Authority later subjected to an advertisement ban. In 2004, he began to self-publish his books after Alice's Diary, a book about his cat, was turned down. Coleman has also written under multiple pen names; in the late 1970s, he published three novels about life as a GP under the name Edward Vernon.
Writing for The Sun newspaper in the 1980s, Coleman denied that AIDS was a significant risk to the heterosexual community. He later claimed AIDS is a hoax, writing, "it is now my considered view that the disease we know as AIDS probably doesn't exist and has never existed". Such claims have been rejected by the medical community.
On 3 November 1988 in The Sun, Coleman wrote, "those who still claim that AIDS is a major threat to those who enjoy straight sex are either illiterate or irresponsible". On 3 August 1989, he wrote a letter to the editor of The Independent claiming that "your article [in defence of AIDS awareness] has simply helped to perpetuate a long-standing myth—that AIDS is a threat to heterosexuals". On 10 August 1989, Coleman’s Health Matters column demanded that an AIDS awareness campaign be abandoned. On 17 November 1989, The Sun published an article under the headline "STRAIGHT SEX CANNOT GIVE YOU AIDS—OFFICIAL", claiming "the killer disease AIDS can only be caught by homosexuals, bisexuals, junkies or anyone who has received a tainted blood transfusion". The following day, Coleman supported The Sun's claims with an article under the headline "AIDS—THE HOAX OF THE CENTURY", similarly claiming AIDS was not a significant risk to heterosexuals, that medical companies, doctors and condom manufacturers were conspiring to scare the public and had vested interests in profiteering from public service announcements, and that moral campaigners were attempting to frighten young people into celibacy to establish traditional family values. Coleman also claimed gay activists were "worried that once it was widely known that AIDS was not a major threat to heterosexuals, then funds for AIDS research would fall".
Coleman has argued that COVID-19 is a hoax, for which he has been criticised by the medical community. Coleman's anti-vaccination views have been used to push Covid-19 denial and anti-mask theories, with police officers urging residents in Prestwich, Manchester to dismiss anti-vaccination leaflets which have been distributed in the area and credited to Coleman. Making a statement, the local authority 'requested the public to dismiss the message being sent out and is encouraging all relevant age groups to take up the offer of a vaccine'. Similar leaflets have been distributed across Scotland and condemned by Shirley-Anne Somerville of the Scottish Parliament.
Advertising Standards Authority rulings
In 2005, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an advertisement for a book published by Coleman entitled How to Stop Your Doctor Killing You which claimed doctors were "the person most likely to kill you". The ASA upheld complaints that the advert was misleading, offensive and denigrated the medical profession. The ASA found Coleman's claims were lacking evidence, "irresponsible" and "likely to discourage vulnerable people from seeking essential medical treatment". In response to the ruling, Coleman called for the ASA to be banned and later made a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading, claiming "the ASA's action(s) are in breach of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act". The Office of Fair trading did not pursue Coleman's complaint.
In 2007, the ASA again found Coleman had made misleading claims in an advertisement promoting a supposed link between eating meat and contracting cancer. Coleman failed to respond to the ASA's enquiries. He was subsequently found to have again breached the organisation's code of conduct, with the ASA deeming Coleman's advert was again lacking evidence and likely to cause undue fear and distress. Coleman was instructed not to further run the advertisement and informed to respond to future ASA investigations.
Coleman is married to Donna Antoinette Coleman (born 1972), who co-authored the books How To Conquer Health Problems Between Ages 50 and 120 (2003), and Health Secrets Doctors Share With Their Families (2005) with him.
- Walker, Esther (14 May 2008). "The doctor will see you now: Who does Vernon Coleman think he is?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
- Bedell, Geraldine (7 April 1996) "Doctor on the Make", The Independent. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
- 'Volunteer for Kirkby', The Guardian, 14 May 1965
- GMC. "Vernon Edward COLEMAN". GMC - UK. General Medical Council UK. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
- "Supplementary memorandum by Professor Vernon Coleman". www.parliament.uk. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
- Fennel, Oliver (27 June 2020). "An 'old man in a chair' pulling rabbits from his bag of 'truths'". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
- 'Conscientious Objectors'. Financial Times. London. 8 August 2003
- Robson, David (29 November 2020). "It's only fake-believe: how to deal with a conspiracy theorist". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
- Johnson, Rachel (6 March 2004). "You have been warned, Mr Blair". The Spectator. London. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
- Khashimova Long, Katherine (28 January 2021). "Amazon algorithms promote vaccine misinformation, UW study says". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "Medicine and the Media". BMJ. 299 (6706): 1036. 21 October 1989. doi:10.1136/bmj.299.6706.1036. ISSN 0959-8138.
- "Animal rights man restrained". The Guardian. London. 3 August 1994.
- Schoon, Nicholas (3 August 1994). "Scientist wins right to keep address secret: Professor hounded by anti-vivisectionists wins court battle with journalist". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
- "ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Publishing House". Advertising Standards Authority. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
- Ross, Deborah (12 July 1999). "What seems to be the problem Doctor Coleman?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
- Tickety Tonk (Vernon Coleman's Diaries), Blue Books, 2019
- The Morning Show with Patrick Timpone, 31 January 2017
- McCredie, Jane (21 November 2011). "Reining in Mavericks". InSight+ (44).
- Coleman, Vernon. "AIDS & HIV". VernonColeman.com. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
- Eldridge, John (2003). Getting the Message: News, Truth, and Power. Routledge. pp. 198–224. ISBN 9781134895823.
- Felton, James (2020). Sunburn: The unofficial history of the Sun newspaper in 99 headlines. Sphere. ISBN 978-0-7515-8077-8.
- Grimes, Robert. "COVID Has Created a Perfect Storm for Fringe Science". Scientific American. Scientific American. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
- Reuters, Fact Check. "Fact Check-UK government data does not show pandemic is a hoax". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
- Bowman, Jamie (4 May 2021). "Police urge residents to 'dismiss' anti-vaccination leaflets being distributed in Prestwich". Bury Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
- Ryder, Gemma (22 September 2020). "Dunfermline MSP condemns coronavirus hoax leaflet". Dunfermline Press. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
- Amery, Rachel (15 October 2020). "Coronavirus survivors hit out at hoax leaflets posted through doors in Perth". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "Criticism for 'deadly doctor' ad". BBC. 21 June 2005. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
- Coleman, Vernon (June 2005). "Does The ASA Do More Harm Than Good?". VernonColeman.com. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
- Coleman, Vernon (June 2005). "The Advertising Standards Authority and the Office of Fair Trading". VernonColeman.com. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
- "Books and publications". www.asa.org.uk. Advertising Standards Authority Committee of Advertising Practice. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
- Mrs Caldicot's Knickerbocker Glory, 2014, page 1
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